During the course of her debate with Vice President Mike Pence, California Sen. Kamala Harris denounced the killing of Breonna Taylor, saying her life was taken, “unjustifiably and tragically and violently.” She embraced the slogan that Taylor, a 26-year-old Emergency Medical Technician who was killed during a police shooting at her home in Louisville, Ky., in March of this year, “deserves justice.”
Over the last several months, the Black Lives Matter movement has put the issues of racism and allegations of police brutality on the national agenda. During the course of that national debate, the story of what happened to Taylor has, with the exception of the death of George Floyd, been the most-talked-about example of what BLM advocates assert is an epidemic of police murders of African Americans. As a result, the cause of justice for Taylor, which is best known for its slogan “say her name,” has been embraced by pop-culture figures, athletes, politicians like Harris and the Anti-Defamation League, which is still supposedly the nation’s leading antisemitism monitoring group.
For those who were introduced by the vice-presidential debate to the incident, it was not the open and shut case of injustice that Harris claimed. While what happened to the young woman was undoubtedly a tragedy as the grand jury ruled when Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron put the facts before them, it was not murder.
For those who think that there’s nothing wrong with the ADL jumping on the liberal bandwagon in this case, there’s another interesting point about the unjustified effort to portray this incident as evidence of systemic racism. It’s that the person behind most of the agitation in Louisville about it—Tamika Mallory—is also one of the country’s more prominent supporters of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and a notorious antisemite in her own right.
It’s not just that Mallory’s role in this effort to attack and subvert the nation’s legal system should have caused the ADL to avoid entangling itself—and, by definition, the American Jewish community as a whole—in this case. It’s that Mallory’s successful reboot of her career as a national figure who purports to be an icon in the civil-rights movement represents a signal failure on the part of the ADL in carrying out the job for which it was created: fighting antisemitism.
If Mallory’s name rings a bell, it ought to.
She first became generally known as the president of the Women’s March, the group that organized the massive protest against President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Along with Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour and other left wing figures, Mallory pulled off an extraordinary coup in orchestrating an anti-Trump “resistance” event that overshadowed the nation’s quadrennial celebration of democracy.
The Women’s March received kudos from a mainstream media that shared the organizers’ unwillingness to accept the results of the 2016 election. Flushed with success, the group went on to stage many other protests around the country in the following two years.
But by 2018, it was clear that the top leadership of the Women’s March had another agenda. Mallory and Sarsour made it clear that Jewish women who were also supporters of Israel were not welcome at their events.
It should also be noted that among Mallory’s targets was the ADL. It was Mallory who helped pressure Starbucks to drop the Jewish group as one of those organizations hired by the coffee company to conduct anti-bias training for its employees.
By December 2018, when Tablet magazine published a devastating exposé about the pervasive antisemitism at the Women’s March, the group’s cover was blown.
Sarsour’s vicious anti-Zionism and attacks on Jewish women became well-known. Mallory’s record as a hatemonger was equal to, if not greater than, that of her colleague. Mallory, who got her start in activism as a supporter of veteran race-baiter Al Sharpton, was, according to The New York Times, also a public supporter of the Farrakhan, who is arguably the most influential antisemite in the country. And, as Tablet’s report testified, her hatred had made itself felt in the way the Women’s March discriminated against Jews, as well as in opposition to Israel’s right to exist.
As a result, chapters around the nation disassociated themselves from the march, and by the end of 2019, both Mallory and Sarsour left the group. But, like Sarsour, who has continued to stay in the news as a surrogate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention, Mallory has also resurfaced.
She created a new group called Until Freedom that jumped on the Taylor case even before the death of Floyd put the BLM movement on the map. Mallory, as much as anyone else, has been responsible for creating a false narrative about the incident in which Taylor has been depicted as the victim of a wanton murder that has gone unpunished, a public-relations triumph that is every bit as impressive as her work at the Women’s March.
Statements like those of Kamala Harris have obscured the facts of Taylor’s killing, which they don’t back up her claims. Taylor died when police executed a legal search warrant on her home seeking a drug suspect and evidence. Contrary to Mallory’s claims, it was not a “no knock” warrant, but, as a neighbor testified, the police did knock and identify themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend—out of fear or because he didn’t hear the police warning—fired on the police with a legal weapon from within the apartment, wounding one officer. When the cops returned fire, Taylor was shot dead.
No reasonable person can argue that officers carrying out their duties in a legal manner haven’t the right to defend themselves against hostile fire. Taylor’s death is a tragedy but, as the grand jury ruled, not a crime. The one officer who was indicted was charged with firing indiscriminately in a manner that could have injured others.
Yet Mallory and the host of BLM sympathizers that have bought her campaign hook, line and sinker have blasted this perfectly reasonable conclusion as racist. Even worse, many people in the media have mimicked her racist comments about Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is African American, as a race traitor and the moral equivalent of “sellout negroes” who participated in the slave trade for doing his job, as well as for urging the people of Louisville not to engage in mob violence.
Mallory’s efforts have paid off in a number of ways.
It’s not just that prior to the grand jury decision, her credible threats of inciting further violent protests helped intimidate the city of Louisville into making a lucrative financial settlement with the Taylor family. The case has also propelled her back onto the national stage as liberal media outlets treat her as an authoritative source about the case. It even earned her a photo spread and fawning interview in the prestigious fashion magazine InStyle, which never mentioned her support for Farrakhan and antisemitism.
One would think that a group whose brief was combating antisemitism would have something to say about Mallory’s involvement in the Taylor case, as well as the flattering attention she’s gotten in the media. But the ADL, which has also embraced Sharpton as a partner in the anti-Trump resistance, had no reaction to any of this. To the contrary, it echoed Mallory’s outrageous denunciations of the grand jury’s sensible ruling.
To those who have followed the group’s descent into leftist and partisan activism from its previous stance as a defender of Jewish interests and Israel, none of this is surprising. But it is no less appalling for being consistent with so many other of the ADL’s other recent disgraceful failures.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
This op-ed was originally posted in JNS.